Government reveals a series of actions to support €469m Irish horticulture industry to transition to non-peat sources.
Ministers in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have today announced a series of actions to support Irish horticultural growers to move away from peat.
This follows the publication of the Final Report of the Working Group on the Use of Peat Moss in the Horticultural Industry.
“The horticulture sector is crucial for the agriculture industry and the overall economy”
The horticultural sector, the fourth largest, makes a large contribution to the economy with a farm gate value of almost €469 million in 2020 and 17,600 people employed in primary production, value added and downstream businesses.
Approximately 60% of the value of Irish horticulture is currently dependent on peat with the mushroom, amenity and soft fruit sectors being most reliant. The industry therefore requires continued access to peat until alternatives are developed.
Planning for sustainable growth
The Working Group on the Use of Peat Moss in the Horticultural Industry was established following a series of High Court decisions which determined that large scale peat harvesting requires planning permission and licensing by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Working Group was tasked in particular with examining the potential of alternatives to peat for the horticultural industry. While the sector is committed to transitioning away from peat, this is not possible in the short term.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has worked with the Departments of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), and Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Housing), to develop proposals.
- The commissioning of an independent expert to assess levels and suitability of current stocks of peat across all suppliers, including Bord na Móna, for the Irish horticultural sector;
- The commissioning of experts on planning to provide free advice to those who wish to extract peat in a manner which is compliant with the relevant regulations on sub-30 hectare bogs;
- And research to deliver alternatives to peat for the horticulture sector.
“The horticulture sector is crucial for the agriculture industry and the overall economy,” said Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD. “We are endeavouring to address the short-term issue of supply, the medium term one of future access to peat and also the longer-term issue of replacement with alternatives.”
The Department said that some level of import cannot be ruled out in the short term because this has always been a factor in the peat industry in Ireland.
However, there is a regulatory pathway to legally compliant extraction and the fastest route for the domestic industry appears to be small-scale extraction on previously drained sub-30 hectare bogs.
The Ministers will commission the services of experts on planning matters to provide free advice to those wishing to achieve regulatory compliance for extraction of horticultural peat for supply to the domestic horticulture industry.
Bord na Móna has provided assurance that the equipment required to mix such peat, should it become available, remains in the country. Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will be liaising with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the commissioning of all experts.
“I will commission an independent expert to work quickly with growers, and suppliers, including Bord na Móna, to ascertain exactly what stocks are available,” said Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett.
“Bord na Móna have committed to working with an independent expert and the growers to see if any of the stocks of peat they have on hand would be of use to the horticulture sector.”
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine provides support to the horticulture industry through the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Horticulture Sector. Financial support is available to assist growers and businesses through grant aid for capital investments in specialised plant and equipment including renewable energy, as well as technology adoption specific to commercial horticulture production, such as those for utilising alternative growing media.
A 50% budget increase to €9m secured in Budget 2021 was maintained in Budget 2022, reflecting the importance of the sector. This Scheme is 100% funded by the Irish Government. Details of the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector can be found here
Further supports are provided to the sector through the EU Producer Organisation (PO) Scheme for Fruit and Vegetables. Two sustainability research projects on peat replacements were funded to date. Details on PO Scheme can be found here